The final but potentially most crucial part of Anthony Calvillo‘s offensive scheme is the 5 stout men who will be on the field in front of the quarterback. They’re big, they’re mean and they are all Canadian! It’s time to take an in-depth look at the offensive line of the Montreal Alouettes.
When these massive hunks of Canadian-born humanity take the field tomorrow afternoon, it will have a decidedly different look compared to last year. There will be two notable absences; Luc Brodeur-Jourdain, who is rehabbing from an ACL/MCL tear suffered late last season and Josh Bourke, who signed with the Toronto Argonauts when free agency got underway this past February.
These are two gaping holes that will not easily be filled. Thankfully, the Alouettes still have the stalwart Jeff Perrett to provide championship experience and leadership. Perrett is an All-Star who can assume the role of directing this line on the field for OL Coach Kris Sweet and will keep a level head. Joining Perrett will be young veteran Kristian Matte, whose versatility proved to be crucial in helping protect a young Rakeem Cato as the rookie pivot led the Alouettes attack. Last year, Matte came in and played guard, tackle and was even centre when called upon. These two vets will help lead the way in LBJ’s absence.
The newest addition to help off-set the loss of LBJ is fellow Québécois Dominic Picard who forged a solid career in the prairies, playing for both Winnipeg and Saskatchewan. Finally coming home and able to wear Alouettes colours, Picard will be a great assist IF he can keep his temper under check. His penchant for taking ill-advised penalties have put his team behind the eight ball on many occasions and he will have to find a way to balance his fiery demeanor.
Another who will step up big is Philip Blake, who spent his first full season in Montreal last year. Also quite versatile, Blake has a great presence on the field and can mix it up with the best of them. He played centre when he was in college and could easily slot back in to that role should Picard not be able to. It took a while for Jim Popp to have this young man’s services and he will get a lot of reps in 2016.
Also noteworthy are last year’s draft class of Jacob Ruby, James Bodanis and Quinn Lawlor. Any one of these three youngsters are more than capable of slotting in and filling the void left by Bourke’s departure. Of the three, Ruby got the most looks as the 2015 season wound down. He was the anchor of a strong Richmond University O-Line and no one should be surprised at what he is capable of accomplishing in Montreal.
Both Bodanis and Lawlor have immense size and will certainly compete for a roster spot. But like everyone else, they will be in tough. They will also have to compete with the returning Ryan White, whose 2015 season was cut short by a tricep tear. The Montreal native has been raring to go, working like a madman in the off-season to rehab his injury. This young veteran will stake his claim for an everyday spot in the lineup.
As he does every year, Jim Popp finds good Canadian O-Line talent in the CFL Draft and 2016 was no exception. By selecting Phillipe Gagnon, Sean Jamieson and Matthew Toppan, Popp adds to the embarrassment of riches that the Alouettes have at the OL position. Many have questioned Popp’s sanity recently by trading a first round draft pick in next year’s draft to BC but when you have all of this OL talent at your disposal, it’s a calculated risk that’s worth taking to fill another potential need.
A lot of people are looking at the quarterback battle for Montreal as THE competition to watch for in training camp. But by no means should any of you sleep on this brewing civil war along the trenches! There’s only 5 spots up for grabs at any given moment and all of these men will be making their case to be included.
There’s one certainty as the Alouettes prepare to take the field in 2016; In order to get to the Alouettes quarterback, you’re going to have to be like a butcher and slice your way through a LOT of Canadian beef!
Next up, it’s time for us to take a look at this fearsome Montreal Alouettes defense.
GO ALS GO!!!